Monday, April 12, 2010
Novelist Vladimir Nabokov reportedly said, "Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one's sputum." He may have overlooked another category: the blithely un-self-conscious, which is the general vibe I get from local power-pop band Chalk Dinosaur.
Most Mondays, we offer readers one song by a local band or musician. Today, we're upping the ante significantly: 105 demos by Chalk Dinosaur's John O'Hallaron. When I reviewed the band's official self-titled debut, in late November, the Carnegie Mellon student's Web site only had 91 songs up -- he's been busy. Before you ask, "Do I really want to listen to someone's demos?" O'Hallaron's are more fully realized than you might expect, and the looseness suits the material.
Apart from having all of your rough drafts online, Chalk Dinosaur also has a family-affair aspect, having started out as two pairs of brothers. (A more recent addition to the band is Harrison Wargo, formerly of The Morning Light and Transition, the subject of my 2006 cover story "In Between: Local rockers Transition straddle commercialism and conviction.")
But there's arguably no stronger proof that you're utterly comfortable with who you are and where you came from than having your dad onstage with your rock band. That's exactly what happened when I finally got to see Chalk Dinosaur live a couple of weeks ago, opening for Mandrake Project at the Rex Theater. Sitting in with the band on a few songs was a somewhat older gentleman, holding down the acoustic guitar on songs like "John Wayne," who later turned out to be Mr. O'Hallaron, senior. Opening with a surfy guitar instrumental, Chalk Dinosaur turned in a strong performance, ending with the sprawling "Across the Moon," also the closing track on the band's CD.